Why is the license to make ice cream in D.C. prohibitively expensive?

We’re stumped—and so are the agencies that regulate ice cream in D.C. Businesses that manufacture ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen ices, sherbets, frozen tofu, or other frozen desserts have to obtain a specific license from the District’s Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs, and it’s far more expensive than any other license for food purveyors. Making ice cream requires a $2,730 license and additional fees. By comparison, a bakery license costs $375, a marine food product license costs $289, and a license for a restaurant with 100 or more seats is $785. Of the dozen available licenses, the second most expensive is a “commission merchant license” for retailers selling prepackaged foods, which costs $1,560.

So why is it so pricey to break into the ice cream biz? No one seems to know. DCRA set the licensing fees several years ago; spokesman Helder Gil says he asked around and found no one who could explain it. The money, he says, goes to the D.C. Department of Health to pay for health inspectors. So maybe Department of Health food safety manager Robert Sudler knows why? “I’m not sure why [DCRA] charges so much, because it’s an astronomical amount,” he says. “They probably can give you a better answer than me.”